What is Naltrexone and How Does it Work?

What Is Naltrexone Treatment and How Does it Work?

Overcoming opioid addiction isn’t always easy. Although the early stages of opioid withdrawal are difficult to beat, one of the most challenging parts of recovery is figuring out how to deal with drug cravings. Cravings may arise at any time, provoked or unprovoked, and can drive people back to drugs or alcohol if they don’t cope correctly. Moreover, cravings don’t last a week then disappear – some people experience drug cravings for months, and even years, after they stop using. Fortunately, there are medications like Naltrexone to help mitigate these intense cravings. When used in combination with a comprehensive rehab program, Naltrexone treatment is highly effective in improving treatment outcomes.

Naltrexone, commonly known under the brand names Vivitrol or Revia, is a medication used to help prevent opioid abuse. Before starting the medication, people should have already detoxed from all substances. In addition to opioid addiction, Naltrexone is sometimes used to treat alcohol abuse. When used in combination with counseling, lifestyle changes, and sober support groups, this medication can help prevent relapse by reducing drug cravings.

Like most other treatment medications, Naltrexone must be taken under the close supervision of a practicing physician. That’s why patients attending our West Palm Beach rehab facility have access to some of the most trusted and skilled addiction specialists. If you think Naltrexone may be right for you, continue reading to learn more about why this treatment approach works.

What is Naltrexone?

Naltrexone is an opiate antagonist, meaning it works in the brain to block the effects of opioids. As a result, the drug also decreases a person’s desire to take opioids. Before individuals start taking Naltrexone, they should take a urine test to check for recent drug use. This is because individuals must abstain from opioid drugs for between 7 and 14 days before starting the medication. If opioids are in the system while a person takes naltrexone, they may experience sudden withdrawal symptoms. Similarly, Naltrexone is known to interact negatively with alcohol, so people should never take the medication until they have been cleared by a medical professional.[1]

Naltrexone may be sold as a generic pill, or under the brand names Revia or Vivitrol.

Revia

Revia is a pill that is taken once a day with or without food. Usually, patients will start off by taking 50mg and their doctor can increase the dose as needed.

Vivitrol

Vivitrol is an extended-release injection containing naltrexone. The shot is administered once a month in the buttocks by a medical professional.

 

How Does Naltrexone Treatment Work?

Naltrexone treatment programs help people who have stopped drinking or abusing opioids by reducing drug and alcohol cravings. Although scientists don’t fully understand why the drug reduces cravings, many believe it is because the drug decreases the reinforcing effects of alcohol by balancing levels of dopamine and regulating neuropathways in the brain. Furthermore, the drug works to block the effects of opioid drugs so that users are unable to feel pleasure or relief from the sensations that opioids produce.

Possible Side Effects

Like any other prescription medication, there are various potential side effects associated with taking Naltrexone. Some of the most common side effects include:[2]

  • Nervousness
  • Anxiety
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Upset stomach

In most cases, these symptoms are mild and temporary. However, in rare cases, people may experience the more severe side effects of Naltrexone, such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Drowsiness
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Skin rash
  • Blurred vision
  • Diarrhea

If you or someone you love is taking Naltrexone and experiencing any of these severe side effects, it’s vital to contact your doctor immediately.

What Makes Naltrexone Effective?

Although Naltrexone is not a cure for drug or alcohol addiction, research has shown that the medication helps reduce cravings in some people, but not in others. Furthermore, similar to most pharmaceutical treatments for substance abuse, Naltrexone works best when combined with a comprehensive addiction treatment program.

While taking Naltrexone, individuals should be actively participating in counseling, behavioral therapy, community support groups, and more. By reducing cravings, the medication allows people to focus fully on their treatment plan and their recovery. Other benefits of this medication-assisted treatment (MAT) approach include:

  • Fewer side effects than other MAT medications
  • Improved treatment retention rates
  • The therapeutic benefits of Naltrexone typically outweigh the risks and side effects
  • Reduces the motivation to drink or use opioids

Find Naltrexone Treatment in West Palm Beach Today

Naltrexone is an important part of many drug and alcohol treatment programs. However, it is most effective when combined with individualized counseling and aftercare. At Comprehensive Wellness Centers, our addiction treatment center in West Palm Beach is dedicated to providing each of our patients with a personalized rehabilitation plan that meets their needs. If you or a loved one think Naltrexone may be right for you, contact us today to speak with a dedicated treatment provider.

References:

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a685041.html

Medically Reviewed: October 7, 2021

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer | CWC Recovery Staff

Clinical Team

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Content on this page has been reviewed by CWC Medical Staff for accuracy.


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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